Events at the Emirates have unsurprisingly provoked quite a reaction – from both sides. So, to summarise (apologies in advance if anything that follows offends our Arsenal readers)…
– Kei Kamara did have a handful of Olivier Giroud’s shirt.
– Giroud did have a handful of Kamara’s shirt.
– Giroud also a handful of Bassong’s shirt as he scored Arsenal’s second.
– Gary Lineker thought it was it six of one and half a dozen of the other.
– Martin Keown thought it was a penalty.
– Alan Hansen was adamant it wasn’t a penalty.
– Kamara was a little lucky to get the free-kick that led to Michael Turner’s goal.
– The lineman wrongly awarded Arsenal a corner from 10 yards away.
– The same linesman did see the infringement from 40-50 yards away.
– He also missed Theo Walcott being offside leading up to Arsenal’s third goal.
– Arsenal played well in the second half and – on that basis – deserved the win.
– City defended superbly – apart from the last seven minutes.
– Arsene Wenger doesn’t like being a goal down with seven minutes to go.
– The Emirates is a very quiet place.
Sorry for the long list, but hopefully you’ll agree it was one of those days. The sort of day that invoked a reaction from the mild-mannered Chris Hughton unlike any other we’ve seen this season – one that included the word ‘criminal’. Similarly, the angry reaction from Russell Martin – another who was able to bite his tongue successfully in Sunderland but not so in North London – told the story of the day.
The sense of injustice we all felt post-Stadium of Light was certainly back, and back with a vengeance. Whether that feeling of being shafted is as justified now as it felt at 17:00 on Saturday – with the adrenalin still pumping – remains to be seen, but to watch those three points slip through the fingers in such agonising fashion was painful either way.
The benefit of hindsight – not to mention circa 1000 replays – has altered not one jot my view on linesman Richard West’s decision-making, but has brought home the intense pressure City were under for long spells of the match. (Isn’t it how weird how, in the heat of battle, the green and yellow tinted spectacles automatically kick in).
It’s testament therefore to the way Chris Hughton’s men went about their task that they allowed the hosts so little time to settle into their favoured passing rhythm – despite Arsenal fans expecting City to just sit back and admire their pretty passing patterns.
Credit due also to Hughton – the receiver of many unwarranted brickbats of late – for setting his side up his up in such a way that they came within a whisker of pulling off a famous victory; one that would have taken them to the brink of safety.
With Mark Bunn fully justifying the gaffer’s decision to bring him back in ahead of Lee Camp, there were several other notable performances; Steven Whittaker, Jonny Howson and Alex Tettey all giving the manager timely reminders of their qualities for varying reasons. We were even afforded a glimpse of the passing qualities of the popular David Fox; Bradley Johnson’s ankle injury possibly creating an opening for him to start against Reading on Saturday.
So, while at the final, haunting blast of Mike Jones’ whistle we all felt gutted, even a little cheated, we’d all entered the Emirates knowing it was a game of the bonus variety. Anything other than defeat was going to be unexpected and given that we went close to achieving exactly that, we should take it on the chin and move on. You can be sure that’s the message Hughton, Trollope and Calderwood will be conveying as part of their Monday morning debrief.
If it’s good enough for them it should be the same for us; the Premier League season doesn’t afford the luxury of time for self-pity.
One of several positives coming out of North London was the return to form of the magnificent Yellow Army. While the home faithful appeared impressed with their own late efforts – all seven minutes of them – the backing given to the boys in yellow throughout was of the old school variety, and the kind that makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up.
There’s no doubting results elsewhere over the weekend could have been better – a derby-day victory giving Sunderland a massive boost, but dragging Newcastle back into the mire – but City’s fate still very much rests in their own hands. Di Canio’s exuberant celebrations at St James’ (you know what I mean) were accompanied by a similarly OTT #ncfc reactions on Twitter – we’re already doomed apparently – with many taking the Wearsiders win as the death-knell for City.
The Reading game has always been one that was going to have a massive bearing on our fate. Nothing has happened over the entire weekend to change that. A total of 38 points with four to play – including two winnable home games – would at least keep City’s destiny within their control; just how it should be.
So… if we can keep our heads while all around us are losing theirs… that’ll be a start.
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